Spinach which is easy to grow in cool climates contains nutrients such as iron, protein, vitamin A and chlorophyll. It is a suitable accompaniment to a wide range of dishes whether raw in salads or lightly steamed.
Spinach is a cool weather crop that doesn’t grow well in hot summer months when the days are long. The best temperature for growing spinach is between 16ºC and 24ºC.
Spinach is one of the most satisfying cool-weather crops to grow, producing large yields of vitamin-rich, dark green leaves that are excellent for salads and for cooking.
Since both hot weather and long days trigger spinach to bolt (send up a seed stalk) quickly, the secret to success with this crop is to start sowing seeds as soon as possible in spring; to make small, frequent plantings during late spring and summer; and to concentrate on fall as the season for the main crop.
The biggest mistake newbies make is sowing the seeds too late, only to watch the plants bolt right away. Another common mistake is using the wrong method for starting spinach seeds.
Growing spinach from seed can be challenging for beginners, but it’s actually super easy! The key is knowing how and when to do it. So, in this post I will show you everything you need to know about how to grow spinach seeds, step by step.
Varieties of Spinach
Slow bolting varieties have unique characteristics as they are varieties that take longer to develop a seed stalk and thus focus more growth towards the leaves.
Short days and cool temperatures result in better crop yield as bolting is deterred whereas long days and higher temperatures encourage bolting.
Preparation of Spinach
Germination of spinach seeds occurs between 1- 2 weeks.
Please note that because the plants tap root can develop up to 30cm, you therefore have to dig the soil to around 30cm and also add some organic compost or manure into the soil to help provide the necessary nutrients for growth. (see above)
Due to the benefit of organic matter cover crops and green manure crops are beneficial prior to planting spinach, also Check the soils PH and if necessary add lime.
Planting of Spinach
Spinach does best when growing in moist, nitrogen-rich soil. Spinach plants form a deep taproot; for best growth, loosen the soil at least 1 foot deep before planting.
Sow spinach seed as early as six weeks before the last frost or as soon as you can work the soil. Prepare the soil the previous autumn, and you’ll be able to drop the seeds in barely thawed ground come spring. In areas with a long, cool spring, make successive plantings every 10 days until mid-May.
In warm climates, plant spinach in the shade of tall crops such as corn or beans. The young plants will be spared the hottest sun and be ready for harvest in fall or winter. Using cold frames or heavyweight row covers, you can grow spinach all winter in many parts of the country.
In colder regions, try planting in fall (October) and protecting the young plants through winter for a spring harvest. In regions where the soil doesn’t freeze, try planting spinach in February for a March harvest.
Spinach seed doesn’t store well, so buy fresh seeds every year. Sow them one half inch deep and two inches apart in beds or rows. If the weather isn’t extremely cold, seeds will germinate in five to nine days.
Spinach produces beautifully in cool fall conditions, but it’s tricky to persuade the seed to germinate in the hot conditions of late summer. Sow seed heavily, because the germination rate drops to about 50% in warm weather, and water the seed beds frequently — even twice a day — because watering helps to cool the soil.
Read Also: Sowing and Planting Practices for all Crops
Spinach seeds or seedlings should be planted at around 7cm apart in rows and about 30-40cm apart.
Spinach grows well in partial to full sun therefore position your spinach plants in a position that does not experience high temperatures.
You can plant spinach in early spring. To stagger your crop over summer you can plant part rows every few weeks. The last planting should be about 50-60 days before the first frosts.
Read Also: Health Benefits of Spinach
Spinach likes a moist but not waterlogged soil. Using a mulch of straw or grass clippings can help to retain moisture levels in the soil.
Adding a good amount of organic matter to the soil is very necessary to provide the spinach with the nutrients it requires.
Spinach doesn’t perform well on acidic soils, a good PH is around 6.3 -6.8. Therefore if your soil is acidic then you can add the appropriate amount of lime to the soil if necessary.
- Make sure the soil is always moist: An inch of water per week is adequate when there is little or no rainfall.
- Thin out your spinach seedlings as required but try not to damage the roots of the plants you leave in the soil.
- Make sure you apply lime if your soil is acidic because the effects of an over acidic soil can be seen in the yellowing of the edges of seedling leaves, low germination rates and slow growth. (see above)
Harvesting and Storage Procedures
Spinach becomes ready to harvest at about 40-50 days after planting.
Your spinach leaves can be harvested whenever you notice that they look big enough and ready for your salads etc.
Ensure to start picking leaves on the outside of the plant, the inner leaves will then continue to grow and produce a new crop. Alternatively you can harvest the whole plant. (see below)
You should aim to eat the spinach straight after picking and washing in cool water.
You can store the washed leaves in the fridge for a few days but the taste and nutrient content is best after picking.
How to Begin Growing Spinach in 8 Simple Steps:
Step 1: Loosen your soil by digging down deep.
Step 2: Apply fertiliser, manure or compost. If you are using fertiliser, use one handful for every square metre of soil. Or four hands of kraal manure or compost for every square metre of soil.
Step 3: Use a garden fork to mix soil and fertiliser, manure or compost thoroughly, and then even out using a rake.
Step 4: Put the seed or seedlings into the ground, working according to the instructions on the seed packet or the nursery recommendations.
Step 5: Water the plants regularly. Use flood irrigation, a sprinkler, a watering can, a hosepipe or drip irrigation.
Step 6: For a better crop, apply a top dressing about five weeks later as spinach needs a lot of nitrogen for good quality, broad leaves. For this top dressing, use either chicken manure or LAN applied between the rows and work it in lightly. Remember to remove weeds regularly.
Step 7: Harvest spinach regularly. Remove only the outer (older) leaves with a sharp knife about 30mm to 50mm above ground level. Don’t damage the new leaves. If the leaves are not going to be used immediately, bunch them and put them in water to keep them fresh for longer.
Step 8: Don’t plant spinach on the same plot over and over, because this causes spinach pests and diseases to build up in the soil. Rotate the crop with other vegetables such as pumpkins, beans, peas, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes and cabbage.
Read Also: Sowing Guide for Different kind of Crops